Thursday, November 26, 2015

At the Moment

It looks like contrary to what Humphrey Bogart said we won't always have Paris after all. For a Europhile to the core like myself this is a heavy blow. Alas it tinges my thoughts but I'm sure many will agree.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and current activities/favorites in the comments section just below this post.


The At the Moment column is usually a way of distraction via description but this little bit lately is resisting distraction. It's hard to avoid thinking what comes next after the 23/11 terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe. Paris has long seemed like the stronghold of peaceful discource between opposing cultures though I'm sure the banlieux have been having their own share of "civil war" from time to time. It's shocking to hear the news and the escalation involving even more countries. I'm crossing fingers and toes and wish I had as many arms as the goddess Kali to be able to wish the terrors away.


Perhaps not unjustly my thoughts ran to Virginia Woolf and her Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid. Just finished Letter to a Young Poet though which had been a long while in waiting. Her essay on poetry is most enjoyable to read and think about. Especially when she intones how poetry (life really) should get out of the autistic self and unto the others. (And yes I do get the irony of saying that just as I'm writing about my own self and what occupies me on this post). Next I'm planning on getting an education on the Marvel classics.


We've been having the warmest November I can recollect. A light jacket is plenty and I often find myself removing it at noon! I'm on a steady diet of pashminas over lightweight cotton sweaters and long-sleeved T-shirts with blanket scarves. I do lack an animal printed one (so hot this season) and this one from Asos seems to fit the bill.
I'm aching for some cold though I know many will be thinking of the increased cost in central heating. As it is we have not used central heating yet.

I also need a new evening clutch. This Colette frame clutch by Hobo in shade frost ticks two trend boxes in one: fringe and grey. It also looks roomy enough to hold a wallet and keys plus a cell phone.


I've been wearing neglected Orientals lately (and will be devoting a post to my favorite ones soon).
One of them I will whet your appetite with is Cinema eau de parfum by Yves Saint Laurent. Who would have thought back in 2004 that this mimosa and almond floriental would seem almost austere compared with the tsunami of sweet vanillic things to follow?


Maybe because of Paris I'm revisiting Barbara. I'm especially touched by this song of hers Sans Bagages.

And I'm leaving you with a Greek song by Cretan musician Yannis Haroulis: Άιντε και Ξέχασα.
(And hey I've forgotten)

A black stone rolled and woke life up
and we're escaping from closed windows like the shadows
and all we never dared do we throw to the fire
to warm up our dreams our hands our hugs.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Annick Goutal Les Absolus Vanille Charnelle: fragrance review

The problem with the term "charnelle" (carnal in French) for Anglo-speaking audiences persists after the online mocking of Guerlain's analogous fragrances (Les Elixirs Charnels or better known as Carnal Elixirs). Of course one might argue it's hard to beat Poupée (doll in French) by Rochas... Nevertheless don't let that distract you from the creamy goodness of the latest Annick Goutal vanilla fragrance, Vanille Charnelle, part of Les Absolus d'Annick Goutal luxury perfumes trio.

Vanilla fragrances can come in various guises and heaven knows one more vanilla is not what is missing from the market, especially at this point. However the polished touch of perfumer Isabelle Doyen and art director Camille Goutal promises a milk bath preceding a lovers' tryst Popaea (Sabena) style.

The butyric note in Vanille Charnelle is held down by two interesting elements making the fluffy base more playful; one is a peppery note that tingles the sinuses with the anticipation of a session of light spanking, the other a nectarous ylang ylang which brings the floralcy of vanilla into focus. Dark vanillas exhibit boozy, dark, whiskey and rum facets, but Vanille Charnelle is more reminiscent of almonds than of booze and has that goose down feel that white musk has when done right.

For Goutal, who had already offered the moderately priced Vanille Exquise, which many vanilla lovers counted among the ones they love, the decision to offer a disproportionately elevated in the posh stakes vanilla sounds rather odd. But vanilla is a known aphrodisiac, as per pop culture (and who can forget the Guerlain claims to Shalimar being cat nip thanks to its rich, dark, leathery vanilla) and it seems one can't have too many in one line. It also ensures a steady interest at the counter...

The luxurious presentation by Annick Goutal in the Les Absolus line, that opens like the scene of a theatre production to reveal a performance by good actors, merits the asking price more than the innovation of the formula. Still...pas mal du tout.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: 
Annick Goutal news & reviews
Top Vanilla Fragrances: a Series

Friday, November 13, 2015

Malle and Benaim Lecture at Harvard Graduate School of Design

Harvard Graduate School of Design organizes a lecture in their Fall Public Lecture Series featuring perfume editor Frédéric Malle and perfumer Carlos Benaïm.

Frédéric Malle of Editions de Parfums with Perfumer Carlos Benaïm
Thursday, November 19 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm in Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Frédéric Malle will speak about design, the creative process, the fragrances themselves, and their ingredients and history, joined in conversation by perfumer Carlos Benaïm.

Carlos Benaïm (left image) spent his childhood in Tangier, close to natural ingredients that gave him a taste for beauty. He later trained under legendary American perfumer Ernest Shiftan, where he instilled a boldness and bravado into his creations.

Frédéric Malle (right image) was born in Paris into a family deeply involved in perfume and the arts, including his grandfather, who worked closely with Dior to create Parfums Christian Dior; his mother, who was art director of the Dior house of fragrance; and his uncle, the film director Louis Malle. After studying art history at NYU, seeking to master every aspect of the perfume trade, Frédéric Malle worked at French ad agency Havas International and at fragrance lab Roure under master perfumer Jean Amic before establishing Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle in Paris in 2000, which soon expanded to department stores and stand-alone boutiques in New York, Rome, and London.

Rejecting the norms of mass produced fragrance, seeking a return to luxury and creativity, Malle has kept his company on a carefully controlled scale in order to empower the fragrance creators while offering the customer an exceptional experience. He has developed his fragrances through collaborations with well-known master perfumers of today, including Dominique Ropion, Jean-Claude Ellena, Maurice Roucel, Olivia Giacobetti, Pierre Bourdon, Edmond Roudnitska, and (son) Michel Roudnitska.

Malle regards fragrance creation as analogous to publishing a book, with the nose as the author, the name of the fragrance as the title, and himself as editor in chief. This metaphor inspired the sophisticated yet restrained brand identity of Editions de Parfums. His shop interiors—including the Greenwich Village store designed with architect Steven Holl—include Malle's own invention: the "smelling column" that first appeared in the boutique in Barney's New York, which allow a customer to experience the scent and appreciate its complexity in isolation from the surrounding air.

Supported by the Rouse Visiting Artist Fund.

For accessibility accommodations, please contact the events office in advance at events AT gsd.harvard.edu or call (617) 496-2414.

There is also a live stream link.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Oohing and Aahhing Together on my Favorite Chypres Fragrances

Chypre perfumes are what I grew up with. They form part of my heritage because I practically grew up in the greater part of the world where they were conceived originally, the Eastern Mediterranean. Coty's version was a re-imagining. They also smell familiar because practically all the women in my family (and a few men) favored them. For us Southern Europeans the scents of powder, of dryness, of bitter-like scents, and associatively of lack of perspiration, indicate grooming and an immaculately polished appearance. Despite or perhaps because of the region's cultural preponderance to both a groomed rigidity and a carnal sexuality that oozes through every sweaty pore, chypres with darker, animalic elements have seemed both right and alluring. It's a paradox since high temperatures also favor a lighter scent; yet chypre fragrances have the added advantage to not only cut through the heat but almost alleviate it a bit to both the wearer's and the sniffer's mind thanks to their highly volatile citrusy top notes and their starched, mossy undertone.
In short they fit like a glove.

I like them all. Tailored chypres, classic chypres, nouveau chypres and patchouli florals too!

Initially my concept into sharing some of my personal favorite fragrances, as requested by readers, was to highlight less well known specimens. And in part that's what I did with my rather eclectic mix presented in my previous post on A few of my favorite less celebrated fragrances where I also matched them with some of my favorite verse. Chypres however for the reasons I have explained in that previous post have gained a status of rarefied "against the grain" chicness amidst the market selection.

Mossy fragrances can sometimes appear out of step too, dragging the "old lady perfume" stigma with them. I'm brushing that thought away with an assured "hell no care" shrug of the shoulders and I suggest you do the same. The truth is this fragrance family has included some of the most masterful perfumes in modern perfumery. And we can collectively sigh with pleasure at unapologetically liking them.

Here a few of my favorite chypre fragrances in alphabetical order.
NB. I did not include true leather scents though because technically these are a breed apart (though sometimes conflated with chypres). For leather scents please consult the Leather Series. Also discounted green florals, such as Chanel No.19 (which I love in summer heat) or Cristalle for similar reasons.

Armani original eau de parfum pour femme
I wore this in high school. A girl was so inspired she copied me relentlessly. Needless to say I'm heartbroken it got discontinued.

Aromatics Elixir by Clinique
Practically my very definition of a true chypre. Huge patchouli beast with rose, an enchanted forest. I first fell with love it in junior high. Almost every woman in Athens has worn it at some point or other. Huge best-seller and the most delicious trail on any passerby.

Bottega Veneta eau de parfum by Bottega Veneta
Rich prune fruity compote with a troubling under torrent. Delightful.

Cabochard by Madame Gres
My mother's beloved in its original formula and for that reason a poignant and sweet

Bandit eau de parfum by Robert Piguet
The scent of a dominatrix is also a fiercely green mossy one.

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve (distributed by Avon in the US market)
What would you have expected from perfumista-celebrity La Deneuve? All that and more.

Diorella, Dioressence and Miss Dior (original) by Dior
I have covered all these in my Dior series. Linked above are detailed reviews & historical snippets.

Diorling by Dior
Cusp between leathery and chypre. Smooth as sin, beautiful like an angel.

Doblis by Hermes
La douleur exquise. Don't get me started. It's criminal that this smoothest of chypre -suede compositions isn't (and isn't going to be) re-issued.

Femme by Rochas
As feminine as its name suggests, as streamlined as a tailleur. I love the modern re-edition by Cresp where the note of cumin boosts the sexiness hundred-fold.

Jean Louis Scherrer I (original) by Jean Louis Scherrer
Liquid emeralds. This.

Jubilation 25 by Amouage
Proof that modern fruity chypres can be made to perfection.

Mitsouko by Guerlain
The reference fruity chypre with a mouthwatering (to me at least) cinnamon-clove addition, especially perceptible in the lighter concentrations such as the eau de toilette and eau de cologne.

Paloma Picasso (Mon Parfum) by Paloma Picasso
This is one of the loveliest, dense yet wearable chypre in existence. I don't know why people don't wear it more. It also lasts for eons.

Une Rose Chypree by Tauer Perfumes
Another modern fragrance that proves one can do a fabulous chypre with today's materials. My bottle has run out.

Y by Yves Saint Laurent
The most polished chypre gem. From the most elegant couturier to walk this earth. Deep love.

Concluding, it's not a coincidence I have reviewed in detail and referenced all of these perfumes many times. They resonate.

Feel free to add your own (or your own experiences with them) in the comments!

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